By Nelson Igbineweka
Reigning champions, Nigeria, got off to a perfect start at the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2019 with a 75-26 win over Tunisia at the magnificent Dakar Arena on Saturday to go top of Group B.
Power forward Evelyn Akhator dropped the tournament’s first double double with 13 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block to inspire D’Tigress to a resounding victory to send an early warning to all their opponents.
A 14-6 lead at the end of the first quarter showed the gulf in class as Otis Hughley Jr’s outfit dominated the action on both ends of the court with absolute command showcased by Atonye Nyingifa who got right to the gist of the matter and eventually dropped a total of 12 points, picked four rebounds and one assist.
At half time, Nigeria led 40-10 much to the discomfort of the North Africans who were torn in between anger and disappointment for such a mediocre fight they put up against a much stronger side.
Hughley Jr used the opportunity to rotate his squad and give minutes to everyone while trying out different combinations on court and indeed as he said later, Nigeria are turning a new page from the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018 showdown in Spain.
Akhator told FIBA.basketball exclusively after the game that, “We still need to get better because this is the [Women’s] AfroBasket. This game was like bread and butter because the main meal is yet to come so we have to keep fighting and play hard.”
None of the Tunisian players made it to double figures but Rania Laouini picked eight rebounds and made five points in a game that her and her teammates will want to forget for more reasons that one.
Meanwhile, hosts Senegal overcame a nervous start to eventually make light work of Cote d’Ivoire in a typical West African derby that brought out the best of the two sides in the first half.
In the presence of the Senegal Head of State Macky Sall, the Lionesses found themselves between a rock and a hard place when the Ivorians led 22-18 at the end of the first quarter.
A proper pep talk from Senegal head coach Cheikh Sarr at the break got the home side into beast mode and they were unstoppable scoring 22 points while playing a full court press to limit Cote d’Ivoire to just four points as they lead 37-22 at half time.